Dear NBC Universal,
I understand that you’ve been having some problems with Apple in regard to selling your programming on the iTunes Store and have decided to go your own way—offering limited free downloads of your programming. I’d like to see the two of you put this behind you for a couple of reasons.
1. My wife and I are interested in having a look at Journeyman because we enjoyed Kevin Mckidd’s work in HBO’s Rome. (Though I must say that having the woman in the back of the adverts thrusting out her chest in that “Hey, look at me, I have breasts!” kind of way makes me wonder if you’re going to waste Mr. Mckidd’s considerable talents with more network dreck.) If the premiere episode looked promising, I’d sign up for a season subscription though iTunes. As it is, I’ll trust that job to TiVo and then decide later.
2. I think you’re going to have your ass handed to you.
I understand that “please work this out” isn’t much help, so allow me to offer a solution that I believe will go a long way toward resolving the issues.
Hire younger people and put them in decision-making positions.
And by younger people I specifically mean children six and under.
Allow me to explain.
Two years ago my then-four-year-old daughter and I tuned into the baseball playoffs (regrettably, not shown on your fine network). After the away-team garnered its final out of the inning, a truck commercial appeared.
“What’s that!?” my suddenly confused progeny cried. “That’s not baseball!”
“That’s a commercial, honey,” I replied with the sudden realization that, because we’re a TiVo family and her programs are limited to commercial-free cable channels, she’d never seen a TV commercial before. “To pay for these programs, TV tries to sell you things.”
“That’s stinky. I don’t want to see this, I want to watch baseball with you. Make it go away.”
And so I tapped the TiVo’s pause button and did exactly that.
My daughter is now six and she still hasn’t seen a complete TV commercial. For that matter, in the years I’ve owned a TiVo, neither have I. I rarely watch TV in real-time, I’ve implanted the secret 30-second skip command into my Series 2 TiVo controller, and what network TV I watch I generally purchase from iTunes.
Had my four-year-old learned the details of your plan to offer “free programs” and had the power to do so, she would have flushed it—along with a couple of rubberized Polly Pocket outfits and a well-chewed Lego block—down the toilet, just to watch them spin. Why?
1. It’s fun to watch things go down the toilet. Restore that sense of childlike wonder and flush your tie down the toilet. Trust me, it’s a hoot.
2. We are so over TV commercials. It’s not 1967. We have access to more than the three networks and the weird crap they put on UHF simply to fill space. In those dark days, we had to watch commercials—or run to the bathroom or kitchen to avoid them—because there was no other choice. In the age of TiVo, personal DVRs, DVD compilations of TV seasons, BitTorrent, and, yes, the iTunes Store, forcing your viewers to sit through commercials (as they would have to with your “free” downloads) will be perceived as a punishment.
3. There are other ways. You notice that list of other vehicles for obtaining programs in the previous point? TiVo is probably the most savory option for seeing your stuff. BitTorrent is the least. I’ve tried to instill a sense of honesty in my daughter, but she’s sometimes sympathetic to the view that when someone treats you like a criminal, they do not deserve your full support.
4. She thinks you’re poo-poo heads. My daughter would be willing to subsidize your programs with a chunk of her allowance via an iTunes subscription, but, quite frankly, even her young nose can detect the scent of avarice.
And, like me, she’s a Mac user and when she heard your service would work, at first, only with Windows PCs she said, “You’re kidding, right? I mean, I’m six, and even I’m not such a vindictive baby.”
I then reminded her that she’d have to watch these shows on the computer because they can’t be transferred to a device that can play them on a TV and that they’d expire after a week.
“What!? Isn’t that the whole reason you got an Apple TV, why we have a DVR hooked up to the Mac, and why a bunch of people are carrying iPods that play video? I don’t want to be chained to a computer to watch TV. That’s why we have TV.”
“God, dad, am I going to turn stupid when I grow up too?”
I hope not. Please do your part by being a better example of what thinking people can do when they put their minds to it.
Thanks for listening.
Chris (and daughter)